Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper.

Mayor’s Report: Shuswap’s economy tied in with forest industry

The story of Salmon Arm is intertwined with the development of British Columbia’s forest sector.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Council of Forest Industries (COFI) conference in Vancouver. It was such an honour to be able to share what is happening here in Salmon Arm with the 625 attendees. Not everyone was aware of our proud history or the amazing things that are going on right now. I realized that sometimes it’s ok to brag because this is a story I need to share!

Looking back, the story of Salmon Arm is intertwined with the development of British Columbia’s forest sector. We have some innovative and long standing businesses who have continued to be leaders in the forest industry. These include, Canoe Forest Products plywood manufacturing, our largest local employer, recently celebrating their 50th anniversary!

In addition, Salmon Arm is home to a unique cluster of forestry consulting firms that support Canada’s forest sector. These companies include the head office for Forsite Consulting which has 11 locations.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of forestry in Salmon Arm is our history related to the Sawmill Equipment Manufacturing industry. The formation of the local industry grew from a small blacksmith shop “Newnes” (now USNR), established over a hundred years ago in the downtown.

In the 1980s, software technology entered the forest industry’s realm, once again contributing to business growth in Salmon Arm.

Optimization scanners and controls automation became key components that pushed machinery to run faster and to process wood more accurately and efficiently than any human could do manually.

Sawmill machinery became high-tech and the increased demand for professionals in the engineering field opened up a range of employment opportunities.

Since that time, the high-tech forestry sub-sector continues to be an integral driver of our economy and an important community mainstay.

Salmon Arm can proudly say we are home to Western Canada’s largest hub of companies that specialize in the design and manufacturing of automated forestry equipment.

This strong foundation continues to attract skilled professionals and entrepreneurial newcomers. We can be extremely proud of all our tech and manufacturing companies! So yes, it was good to brag about Salmon Arm’s local businesses at the COFI convention.

As you can see our economy is tied to forestry and it is for this reason that the current climate of uncertainty surrounding softwood lumber is of concern to our community.

The softwood lumber agreement was heavily discussed at the COFI conference and while they expect there will be long and difficult negotiations, it good to note we’ve been here before and reached an agreement. Lastly, when I was questioned about new cut-blocks I advised the COFI audience that residents in an area of any proposed cut-block must be consulted.

-Nancy Cooper is the mayor of Salmon Arm.